Premier League Crown is Kilkeelís for first time.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Premier League Crown is Kilkeelís for first time. thumbnailCoaches Colin McConnell and Brian Niblock with the Premier League trophy.

THE day had arrived and Kilkeel knew a victory would see them make history once again by lifting the Premier League crown for the very first time.

Kilkeel Men's 1s...3
Bangor Men's 1s...1.

But it was going to be no easy task as Bangor who currently sat top of the table knew they only needed to avoid defeat to win the league, so it was all to play for.

The scene was set, there was a massive crowd from both home and away support which created a fantastic atmosphere all around the pitch.

Bangor started the game the better of the two sides and looked assured in their passing, tackling and link-up play.

Their inspirational captain Chris Campbell was at the heart of all their moves forward and it was him who provided the first goal of the game.

A long ball down the right was played into Matthew Willis who turned and went past two defenders with some silky skill before he fed the ball into his skipper who ran through and fired past Sam Morris to give Bangor a 1-0 lead.

The visitors didn't look nervous and were handling the occasion with ease despite what was on the line in this match.

Kilkeel, in the eyes of many, have the best keeper in the Premier League in Sam Morris who throughout the season has shown how good he is when his team need him and today was one of those days.

Throughout the game he would make a continuous stream of top class saves, including one 15 minutes into the first half denying Matthew Willis to keep the score at 1-0.

If that effort had gone in then the Mourne Men would have been in a deep hole.

The game quietened down a bit in terms of goalmouth action with the majority of the play being fought for in the middle of the park. Skipper Gareth Russell, David Rae, Edward Agnew and Richard Fraser were all trying to build momentum going forward, looking for any gaps to appear, but unfortunately a resolute Bangor defence ensured there was none.

Each side exchanged efforts on goal from penalty corner situations, but both were blocked well by the defence, however the positioning of the Bangor defensive setup did give Kilkeel an option to try from their next penalty corner that they sometimes have used in the past.

As the minutes ticked down in the first half it looked like Bangor would go into the half-time interval leading, but Kilkeel never stop until the whistle goes and with 4 minutes to play they equalised.

It started down in the left corner were David Rae somehow worked space with some skilful touches to get into the area were he found Jonathan Aiken and after the ball bounced inadvertently back to Rae, he kept his cool to fire high past the keeper into the top corner for 1-1 The home crowd went into a rapture of applause and cheering as a sigh of relief swept away from them with their team now back in the game.

Kilkeel did put a bit of pressure on at the end of the half to see if they could grab a second goal, but they weren't able to create anything notable so the half time score was 1-1.

It was a finely poised game and whilst the crowd sipped away at their tea and coffee, I don't think any of them could definitively say who would win the match.

Each set of coaching staff was using every second possible to get their orders out for the biggest half of hockey in their careers.

The second half began and it was Kilkeel who began the better of the two with that goal before half time from David Rae seemingly filling the side with confidence in their passing and movement.

Bangor sat off the home side a bit more with their press which was allowing Kilkeel to work the ball from side to side with relative ease.

The second half was one of very few chances at the beginning with neither side creating notable chances, the pace of David Finlay, Luke Russell and Jonathan Aiken was causing problems for the Bangor defence, but the visitors just sat deeper to ensure they weren't caught out by the aerial ball over the top.

Kilkeel were looking the more likely to score and with 15 minutes gone in the second half they took the lead from a penalty corner routine.

The team had noticed in the first half the option available to them at the back post with Mark Stevenson being free just yards out from the goal.

It was this routine they chose as the ball was fired out to David Rae by Gary Niblock and Rae fired the ball to the unmarked Stevenson who got down low to deflect past the keeper and defenders on the line for 2-1.

It was a massive goal in terms of the game with Kilkeel now knowing if they didn't concede another goal they would be crowned the Premier League Champions.

However just moments later their task became a little bit harder as Kilkeel lost William Annett to a 10-minute yellow card meaning they would have to play a large proportion of the remainder of the match with 10 men.

Unfortunately for Annett despite him winning the ball, he did take the player out as well with a sliding challenge which now means an automatic 10 minute yellow card.

Bangor saw this as an opportunity to now put themselves back in control as they searched for an equaliser pushing Kilkeel deep inside their own 23 for the vast majority of the 10 minutes.

It was backs against the walls for the men from Mourne at times, but the heroic defending of Gary Niblock, Mark Henning, Mark Stevenson and in particular Neil Stevenson who put their bodies on the line to tackle and block magnificently to deny the Bangor forward line.

Bangor came close on a couple occasions from penalty corners, but they were denied by some excellent blocks by the defence and saves from Sam Morris.

There was also a few open opportunities with some cross flashing right across the goal, but in the end Bangor weren't able to make the man advantage count.

No sooner were Kilkeel back to their full compliment of 11 they made it 3-1 from another penalty corner.

It was the exact same routine as the second goal as David Rae received the ball before passing to the unmarked Mark Stevenson at the back post who diverted it into the net to but his side in a commanding position with just 5 minutes to play.

The fans were all in buoyant mood now with end in sight and the Premier League title almost sealed, but crucially the players kept their concentration and continued to fight for every ball, tackle magnificently at the back and pass with confidence.

With Bangor having a few half chances before the final whistle there was a few nails being bitten, but it soon went and Kilkeel had once again made history by winning the Premier League title for the first time.

The Mighty Men from Mourne had dominated the scoring charts by scoring the most and conceding the fewest, not to mention the fact they have only lost once all season long.

Everybody at the club would like to thank the incredible support we have had both home and away this season.

A lot of people were thinking, I'm sure, of the late great John Charleton when Gareth Russell lifted the Premier League Trophy and one phrase that he used frequently "Nous Sommes Les Hommes".


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